My work involves people and ideas, performance, prose, poetry, objects and archives.
The beauty of such a diversity of work is that there can never be an unquestioned uniformity about any of the processes or outputs involved in engaging with people and ideas; engagement is necessarily contextual and evolving. Art, literature, theatre, poetry … all of these speak to the soul, immediately and viscerally.
If journalism writes the headlines which become history – then poetry is the deep dive; alive and kicking, packing emotional punch with intellectual heft, it’s the human soul speaking.
Human creativity carries truths about our condition which can be read across space and time. Yesterday’s news headlines evaporate, they are ephemeral.
Art and creativity go beyond headlines
Human acts of creation speak are as worthy of historical record as journalism, precisely because they go deeper. In fact I’d go further and say they are more worthy of inclusion in the historical record than journalism, a field riddled with biases and lop-sided views masked by a fictional objectivity and self-awarded neutrality.
“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Other Tales
The work of creation, but also of contextualisation, needs to be continuous. Each generation must understand what came before, and absorb that knowledge, so that it can face the future.
Sometimes that process can also be about unlearning. Or, as is increasingly being discussed, decolonising.
Why should we look to the past? Well, there’s nowhere else to look is there?
Which brings me to archives and the way we arrive at them.
If we know our history, we can start examining what they contain from various perspectives. How welcome to have the perspective of thinkers and events disturbed by European invasions alongside those from the same cultures’ descendants for example.
We should ‘play’ with archives. The joy of this approach is that in breaking ‘rules’, many of which have no connection to the culture or artefacts being examined and which are often built on assumptions and biases which build in a contempt for the subject, we start to create and converse with those cultural products in a more nuanced way.
So it is with history.
We can and should explore it from diverse perspectives so that we can see it afresh, and learn from it.
The future isn’t just a blank screen on to which we project things based on assumptions or ways of seeing things as they are now or once were.
The past also has clues for us.
If we pay attention to it, it can help us dislodge those assumptions, especially the ones we are blind to, and offer new ways of seeing.
Is the story we tell ourselves really all there is, or does it just leads us to imagine more of the same? Is more austerity and unfettered capitalism really the panacea for ailing social and health care systems? Can the wealth gap really be closed by more of what created it? In an age where Artificial Intelligence is touted as the future, should we really be hard wiring the biases and boundaries of knowledge?
As artists and creatives we are ekstasis – we stand aside, or even outside, the status quo. That is as it should be; separation enables us to see things differently, perhaps even clearly.
For there to be a rebirth, or a renewal, there must be a taking stock. That’s where human creativity comes in.
Many of us have used 2020 for exactly that.
Now, we’re getting organised.